Saturday, March 29, 2014
100th Blog Post: In Search of Boylston
You may, or may not have noticed I have been bringing up the Boston Marathon more frequently in my posts. It is interesting that when the thought of getting into a particular race is so far off, the desire to run that race fades as well. During the five year duration from 2009 to 2014 where my marathon personal best stood frozen at 3:33:41, I was so far off the ability to achieve a Boston qualifying time, that the concept eventually faded off into the realm of "nice to haves", "maybes", and possibly "nevers". After all, I could do okay at mountain ultras, but always seemed to fall short in road races.
I absolutely believed 2013 was going to be a make, or break year in my relationship with running. It became very apparent that doing nothing but ultras, as pretty and scenic as the locations may have been, was zapping the mojo out of my running. The effect was amplified by being often injured, out of shape, and just generally feeling lethargic at every race. It was a nasty series of unfortunate events as I would do lousy at one ultra, sign up for another in hopes to rebound back, do even worse, sign up for a longer race in hopes I could compensate for lack of speed with slow endurance......and do even more worse. After slogging through the Massanutten 100 in 31:38, slogging through Mohican in 28:55, slogging through Leadville only to time out at the last aid station, it was either time to hang up the shoes, or revamp my whole outlook on what running is.
Ask yourself why you run any given day, and the answer may be different each time. As a hobby runner, my answer for why I run 99% of the time is going to be so I can have fun. Testing your physical limits can be fun too, but pushing through 100 mile race after 100 mile race just to get a cool buckle sacrificed more fun than it should have.
Needless to say, spending my summer and fall in Colorado couldn't have come at a better time. Seeing the beauty of the our earth is quite aw inspiring, as well as feeling reconnected with the natural world. Though I put in a lot of high mileage weeks in the high country, they weren't out of obligation to fulfill a training routine, or to prep for some upcoming race. It was simply about me taking time to run, hike, walk, or even peacefully sit to listen to the whispers in the wind and echoes from the deep canyons and passes. THIS is the relationship I had strived to have with running, because it wasn't even about running. It was a symbiotic and purposeful harvesting of my need to be a part of the creation around me.
Thus, moving to Norfolk a few months ago, needless to say, was a bit of a culture shock from Colorado. I admit I was concerned that my running would suffer for two big reasons; the winter was unusually snowy and cold and not conducive for high mileage running; and how would I react to running without being constantly surrounded by epic scenery?
The Boston Marathon was the resounding, yet unlikely response. I figured if I wasn't going to be able to run trails on a regular basis, why not test the road running chops and see if I could gain a little "speed" in the legs. After the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon, my mind really jumped at the idea of one day being able to run the historic course and experience the culture that is the city Boston. But again, with that 3:33:41 PR, it still remained an afterthought. However, my body reacted well with the transition back to roads after a five year lay off and I ran a respectable 3:10 at the Shamrock Marathon. Not that fast, but still a big PR. While it wasn't a Boston qualifying time of 3:05, it bridged the seemingly insurmountable gap that had previously existed between my lack of road speed and a Boston qualifier. Even more surprisingly, less than two weeks after Shamrock, I ran another marathon just for fun, and ended up with another PR of 3:08. I think being able to knock over two and a half minutes off my marathon in a non focus race means I am certainly capable of taking additional time off. This is a pretty good starting point.
So, who would have guessed that my romanticized hunt for a BQ, via road running, is what has brought some much needed excitement back to my world of running? I can just imagine running up heart break hill, meeting the girls of Wellesley, making a right on Hereford, and a left to into the finish line crowds on Boylston. In addition, my desire to run ultras, especially 100 milers, has dropped significantly. 100 milers can wreak havoc on your fitness since you taper for two weeks, and then it's another two weeks to a month before you feel recovered, and by then you've lost six weeks of training. Seems to me less is more these days.